About this image
This picture shows Peak Dell and Peak Cavern (which was formally known as the 'Devils Arse' before being called Peak Cavern). It is in the centre of the village, right underneath Peveril Castle. It has the largest natural cave entrance in Britain and the second largest in the world. The stream that drains from Peak Cavern through the village is claimed by local legend to result from Satan urinating inside the cavern ! The underground river (fondly called the river styx) formed the cave, and as the cave grew, the first part of the cave ceiling collapsed. A small gorge was formed called Peak Dell which leads to the cave entrance which is 20 m wide and 30 m high below a high limestone cliff. The room behind the entrance is more than 100 m long and was used by the inhabitants of Castleton for several hundred years. The cave is a shelter against rain and was the largest 'dry' place on the isles for a very long time. The damp atmosphere made it ideal for rope making, the remains of which can still be seen today. The cave is seen here with a cottages at its approach (possibly a former water mill or miners cottage). To its left, high above the gorge is Peveril Castle. Castleton itself dates from 1198 and is named after the castle. The village is dominated by the keep of Peveril Castle. Peveril Castle stands in an impregnable position on a clifftop above Castleton, flanked by the steep side of Cavedale. It is an evocative place, with an impressive view in all directions and sufficient ruined remains to construct a good idea of how the castle looked in its heyday. The castle bears the name of William Peveril, who was granted the title of bailiff of the Royal Manors of the Peak - in effect the King's agent for the Royal Forest of the Peak - after the Norman conquest of 1066. Peveril is thought to have been an illegitimate son of William I. Peveril created Castleton and in 1080 he fortified the site of the present castle and constructed a wooden keep. Later, these buildings were converted into stone. However, Peveril's son (also called William) became too independent for Henry I, and in 1155 the King confiscated the Peveril estates and the castle has belonged to the Crown or the Duchy of Lancaster ever since. (It has been suggested that Robin of Loxley or 'Robin Hood', whose estate at Loxley was close by, had his 'run ins' with The Sheriff of Nottingham at Peveril Castle and not Nottingham Castle, because William Peveril was at that time Sheriff of Nottingham, and Peveril Castle was his main seat). Henry I visited Castleton several times, to hunt and, on one occasion, to meet King Malcolm of Scotland, who paid homage to Henry here in 1157. The court records show that an enormous amount of wine was consumed on this occasion! The castle fell into disuse after Tudor times, and by the 17th century only the keep was in use - as a courthouse. When this was abandoned the castle gradually became ruined until what remained was restored this century. You enter the castle up a very steep climb from Castleton, but this was not the original main approach, which went up Goosehill and zig-zagged up the hill to approach along the ridge above Cavedale which reaches towards the keep. Peveril dug a breach in this ridge to create a moat which had a wooden bridge across it. Sadly, this bridge has gone and not been replaced. The Castleton entrance leads in through the remains of a gatehouse which was built in the 12th century and into the main courtyard of the castle. Around this is the remains of a curtain wall, which was constructed in early Norman times by the Peverils, and includes Roman tiles which presumably were taken from the ruins of the Roman fort at Navio (Brough). Dominating the site are the remains of the keep, which was built by Henry I in 1176 and is relatively well preserved. The keep was originally about 60 feet high and was faced with fine gritstone blocks, which still remain on the east and south sides. It dominates the view across both Castleton and Cavedale below. Inside the courtyard it is possible to trace the foundations of a Great Hall and kitchens and other buildings, but it is the view across the surrounding countryside which is the finest feature of the visit. The castle is now in the care of English Heritage.